Thursday, March 5, 2015

Early thoughts on Yankees’ spring

The New York Yankees have been gathered in Tampa, Florida for just about two weeks now and by and large there have not been any significant developments  even with Alex Rodriguez in camp. This is a good thing as any big on-field news story would likely have to do with an injury.

The entire pitching staff is coming along with each member at the spot the club hoped for at this point. Adam Warren and Nathan Eovaldi each have two innings under their belt and threw well in their appearances. Warren will make the team, but his role is unknown, while Eovaldi seems a lock for a rotation spot.

Masahiro Tanaka could see game action next week after completing another successful bullpen session Wednesday. Michael Pineda feels strong and CC Sabathia, while taking it slow, is feeling no effects from his knee surgery.

The anticipated starting offense is off to a slow start in two games with Rodriguez the only player who figures to have a surplus of at-bats this season to record a hit. To be fair, bench players Chris Young and Garrett Jones had base knocks in the Yankees’ first game. Of course, we are speaking of one game and two or three plate appearances per player so this is hardly an issue. If a week or two from now they are all still struggling we can begin to ask questions. The old adage is that pitchers are ahead of hitters at this point and this rings true for the Yanks' starters.

While the veterans' performance has been mostly lackluster, the minor leaguers have looked quite impressive. Aaron Judge hit a game-tying, three-run home run in the first game showing his massive power. Mason Williams has a couple of hits in two games, while Slade Heathcott and Greg Bird recorded two hits apiece in Tuesday's game. Cito Culver made a highlight reel play at shortstop in Wednesday’s tilt.

Thursday's game (full lineup below) will have prospects Jose Pirela (3B), Rob Refsnyder (2B), Kyle Roller (DH) and Culver (SS) in Bradenton, Florida to face the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pirela and Refsnyder are competing with Stephen Drew for the second base job, with Pirela also being given a chance to fill a utility role.

As for the new faces, they seem to be fitting in just fine. Didi Gregorius is at ease in filling Derek Jeter’s position. And that’s really all Gregorius is expected to do. He’s not supposed to come in and play like Jeter did at 25, but simply provide above-average defense and hopefully increase his offensive production, or at least become more consistent at the plate. Gregorius’ demeanor is exactly what you would want – calm, understands his role and confident.

Andrew Miller took the hill Wednesday and looked as if he didn’t miss a beat from his spectacular 2014 season. Eyes will be focused on Miller who signed a four-year, $36 million contract, but the big lefty doesn’t seem the least bit uncomfortable in his new surroundings. Miller has a shot to take the closer role, but Joe Girardi is keeping the competition between Miller and Dellin Betances alive for as long as necessary.

Esmil Rogers, who is fighting for a spot on the pitching staff, gets the start Thursday, with Chase Whitley, one of his competitors, also scheduled to throw.

Here is the Yankees’ lineup for Thursday via the club’s Twitter account.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer and sports media strategist. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly Closer Report column. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.